When it came to Fidel Castro, the CIA spared no effort across more than a quarter of a century. William Colby admitted to the Church committee that the agency had tried and failed to kill Castro several times, but not nearly as often as its critics alleged. “It wasn’t for lack of trying,” Colby observed. “Castro gave McGovern in 1975 a list of the attempts made on his life – there were about thirty by that time – as he said, by the CIA. McGovern gave it to me and I looked through it and checked it off against our records and said we could account for about five or six. The others – I can understand Castro’s feeling about them because they were all ex-Bay of Pigs people or something like that, so he thinks they’re all CIA. Once you get into one of them, then bingo! – you get blamed for all the rest. We didn’t have any connections with the rest of them, but we’d never convince Castro of that.”
Five or six assassination plots is a sobering number, especially if you happen to be the intended target of these “executive actions.” But even here Colby was dissembling. He certainly had the opportunity to consult a secret 1967 report on the plots against Castro by the CIA’s Inspector General John S. Earman, and approved by Richard Helms. The CIA had in fact hatched attempts on the Cuban leader even prior to the revolution. One of the first occurred in 1958, when Eutimio Rojas, a member of the Cuban guerrillas, was hired to kill Castro as he slept at a camp in the Sierra Maestra.